History of the FCCA area and Foxhall Village
Our area is rich in history, from the Algonquin Powhattans and colonial period plantations on early land grants that shaped the area, through division of land into smaller farms, and ultimately to suburban and urban development. And now we are seeing redevelopment and increasing density.
Foxhall Village and Foxhall Road are named for Scottish immigrant and Georgetown mayor Henry Foxall, owner of a cannon factory on Foundry Creek in what is now Glover Archbold Park. Foxall’s cannons are credited with helping to defeat the British during the War of 1812. Thomas Jefferson, Foxall, and their friends reportedly enjoyed playing their violins at Foxall’s Spring Hill home in what is now Foxhall Village. A spelling error on an early sign is credited with Foxall becoming Foxhall.
Our area was mostly grazing and farmland during the 1800s, including the Ready Farm along Q Street near 45th. Some farms remained intact until shortly before WWII. Areas along Foxhall Road, MacArthur Boulevard, and throughout the Palisades were also popular for summer homes of prominent Washingtonians dating to the late 1800s. The trend continued into the early 1900s, after which time the city began to grow rapidly and the area’s farms began to disappear and commuter housing become the dominant land use. The first subdivision shown on old maps was at MacArthur (then Conduit Road) and Foxhall Road in 1880, and was named Harlem after the town in Holland. Hurst and Clark’s housing development soon appeared around Clark Place, Green Place and Elliott Place. The Washington and Great Falls Electric Railroad was opened around 1900 (running between Georgetown and the Cabin John bridge) paralleling Canal Road on what is now the powerline easement; stops throughout the Palisades area encouraged growth.
Conduit Road runs over the water lines that link the Potomac intakes to the city’s water system. The road’s name was changed to MacArthur Boulevard after World War II—but Reservoir Road, which followed the lines that used to run to the old Georgetown Reservoir (now the site of the Georgetown Public Library at Q and Wisconsin) kept its name.
Building the Village
Foxhall Village itself was built in the late 1920s. After visiting the English town of Tewkesbury, Harry Boss (of the construction firm Boss & Phelps) returned to Washington determined to replicate the Tudor-style houses he had admired. By 1927, nearly 150 homes had been finished in the little community of high-end and architecturally acclaimed residences in suburban Washington. Today there are over 300 homes in Foxhall Village, which is now a designated Historic District. The booklet, Foxhall at the Half Century written by resident Richard Conn, was first published by the FCCA fifty years after the Village’s original construction. It includes a much more detailed history for Foxhall Village and can be downloaded as a PDF document.
- In 1979, fifty years after Foxhall Village was built, resident Rochard Conn wrote Foxhall at the Half Century. This fascinating book was published by the FCCA and tells the history of Foxhall Village and its charming Tudor Revival architecture. You can download a PDF version for yourself.
- The History of the Palisades by Palisades resident Harold Gray is available online at the Palisades Citizens Association website. Read it together with Foxhall at the Half Century to get a great idea of the history of the area in which you live.
- Also check out Alice Fales Stewart’s The Palisades of Washington DC, part of the Images of America paperback series, which is in fact dedicated to Harold Gray. Another book in the series covers the history of Glen Echo, much of which involves the tramline that also ran through our area and affected development.
- Check out Colony Hill’s history page. The FCCA has a scanned digital version of developer Henry Boss’s photo album documenting construction of Foxhall Village and Colony Hill, including some fascinating photos around the area. Ask to borrow a disk from an FCCA Board member to copy for yourself—it’s too large to download. Download a sample.
- We have a disk with a fascinating Map Series of our area going back to 1857, photographed from the Washingtonia collection at the Martin Luther King Public Library. Due to the level of detail, the file is too large to download but ask the newsletter editor for a disk to copy.